Train ride con­sol­i­dates 30 years of ASEAN-Korea ties

The Korea Times - - ISSUE TODAY - By Yi Whan-woo yis­[email protected]­re­atimes.co.kr

BU­SAN/ GWANGJU — On a south­bound train from Seoul, Oct. 16, two beauty pageant win­ners from In­done­sia and South Korea — Ka­rina Syahna and Keum Na-na — were shar­ing ex­pe­ri­ences from their highly com­pet­i­tive con­tests.

Also on board was The Apex Project, a five-mem­ber a cap­pella band from Sin­ga­pore, and 11 more bands or soloists.

All from the 10 ASEAN mem­ber coun­tries and South Korea, they per­formed on spe­cial stages be­fore an au­di­ence that in­cluded min­is­ters, am­bas­sadors, pro­fes­sors, univer­sity stu­dents and jour­nal­ists from the re­gion.

This unique of mix of peo­ple par­tic­i­pated in ASEAN-Korea Train: Ad­vanc­ing To­gether — a na­tion­wide project from Oct. 15 to 19 to mark the 30th an­niver­sary of ASEAN-South Korea re­la­tions.

The project be­gan and ended in Seoul, with train and bus rides from Oct. 16 to 17 when mov­ing to the south­east­ern cities of Gyeongju and Bu­san and then to the south­west­ern cities of Sun­cheon and Gwangju.

The project in­volved more than 200 par­tic­i­pants who se­lec­tively joined the re­lated pro­grams in ac­cor­dance with their sched­ules.

The pro­grams in­cluded film­ing a mu­sic show in Seoul — “Open Con­cert” — to be aired by broad­caster KBS on Nov. 17, mu­sic per­for­mances on the train, an ASEAN-Korea Pros­per­ity Night re­cep­tion in Bu­san, tours of the UNESCO-listed Bul­guksa Tem­ple in Gyeongju, Ram­sar Con­ven­tion-ac­cred­ited Sun­cheon Bay Wet­land Re­serve in Sun­cheon, Light of ASEAN, One Com­mu­nity and Har­mony ex­hi­bi­tion in Gwangju, and grand fi­nale per­for­mances in Seoul.

The two-day train jour­ney was es­pe­cially to mark the 40-day count­down to a com­mem­o­ra­tive sum­mit of ASEAN and South Korean lead­ers in Bu­san from Nov. 25 to 26.

The ride took more than six hours com­bined, giv­ing pas­sen­gers a chance to in­ter­act with peo­ple of dif­fer­ent racial, eth­nic, re­li­gious and cul­tural back­grounds, to dis­cuss their ar­eas of in­ter­est, and to en­joy the scenery and sites that show Korea’s rapid eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

“And this is ex­actly what we in­tended,” said Lee Hyuk, sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the ASEAN-Korea Cen­tre that or­ga­nized the ASEAN-Korea Train.

Lee — a former South Korean am­bas­sador to the Philip­pines and Viet­nam — said the train jour­ney was “about the fu­ture of ASEAN-South Korea re­la­tions” and that it was “adroitly” de­signed to ad­dress the com­mu­nity of peo­ple, pros­per­ity and peace.

Col­lec­tively called the 3Ps, they are the three core pil­lars of Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in’s New South­ern Pol­icy aimed at deep­en­ing ties with ASEAN.

The ASEAN-Korea Train was part of the year-long cel­e­bra­tions that will last un­til the Bu­san meet­ing. This will be the third ASEAN-South Korea sum­mit, with the first two tak­ing place on Jeju Is­land in 2009 and in Bu­san in 2014.

Lee said he found the ASEAN-Korea Train more mean­ing­ful be­cause the year also marks the 10th an­niver­sary of the es­tab­lish­ment of the ASEAN-Korea Cen­tre, a Seoul-based in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tion set up to pro­mote ex­changes between the two sides in ar­eas such as trade, cul­ture, tourism and aca­demics.

Mean­while, among the top-ranked par­tic­i­pants were For­eign Min­is­ter Kang Kyung-wha, SMEs and Star­tups Min­is­ter Park Young-sun, Pres­i­den­tial Com­mit­tee on New South­ern Pol­icy Chair­man Joo Hyung-chul and Myan­mar In­for­ma­tion Min­is­ter Pe Myint.

In her con­grat­u­la­tory ad­dress for launch of the ASEAN-Korea Train at Seoul Sta­tion, Oct. 16, Min­is­ter Park said the project would “cer­tainly gen­er­ate a pos­i­tive mo­men­tum” lead­ing to the third ASEAN-South Korea sum­mit.

“The ASEAN-Korea Train will travel across Korea de­liv­er­ing mes­sages of peace and pros­per­ity, as well as the hopes for the next 30 years of the ASEAN-Korea part­ner­ship,” she said.

Her min­istry plans to host a startup expo and a beauty fes­ti­val in the week of the sum­mit. The former will in­vite lead­ers of all 11 par­tic­i­pat­ing coun­tries while the lat­ter will wel­come first ladies.

In a sep­a­rate ad­dress, the Myan­mar min­is­ter said the ASEAN-South Korea re­la­tion­ship has been “el­e­vated to a new height” un­der the New South­ern Pol­icy.

Re­fer­ring to par­tic­i­pants from dif­fer­ent fields, he said the train jour­ney high­lighted the “im­por­tance of in­clu­sive­ness, con­nec­tiv­ity and har­mony” and the vi­sion of a peo­ple-cen­tered com­mu­nity.

The ASEAN-Korea Train of­fered a chance to ex­pe­ri­ence Korean hos­pi­tal­ity for some par­tic­i­pants, while oth­ers found it use­ful to learn from peo­ple of the same pro­fes­sion in other coun­tries.

“It’s su­per well done,” said Apex Project leader Ale­jan­dro Hou Lu. “I re­ally liked how [the or­ga­niz­ers] treated ev­ery­body as im­por­tant as they are sup­posed to be.”

Jean Goh, an­other mem­ber, agreed, say­ing, “We feel so wel­come.”

Asked whether the two-day train ride bol­stered peo­ple-to-peo­ple ex­changes, all five band mem­bers said, “Yes,” and re­ferred to a jam ses­sion with other ASEAN and South Korean mu­si­cians on the train.

“We’re very thank­ful for the or­ga­niz­ers for pro­vid­ing this oc­ca­sion to in­ter­act with each other. We could fo­cus on mu­sic, talk to peo­ple, and get to know them,” said third mem­ber Yvonne Ng.

Keum, win­ner of the 2002 Miss Korea Pageant and hon­orary am­bas­sador for ASEAN-South Korea di­a­logue, said she liked be­ing able to spend time with oth­ers in the same space.

“We have breathed to­gether, felt to­gether, ate to­gether and in­ter­acted,” she said. “This is what has made the par­tic­i­pants closer than other cel­e­bra­tory projects.”

A top 10 fi­nal­ist of Pu­teri In­done­sia, a na­tional beauty pageant in In­done­sia, Syahna said she was “thrilled about con­nec­tion” with all mem­bers of ASEAN and South Korea and dis­cussing fu­ture col­lab­o­ra­tions.

Her pres­ence helped some South Kore­ans to look past the stereo­types of Mus­lim women and to learn about di­ver­sity in In­done­sia — the world’s largest Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity na­tion.

“I am a Mus­lim but I do not wear hi­jab,” she said. “In­done­sia has so many cul­tures and lan­guages. We are open-minded and we re­spect each other’s cul­tures.”

For some ex­pats such as Nabeela Ami Mohd Yu­sof of Malaysia, a Korea Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy and Ed­u­ca­tion stu­dent, and Mahn Hung Pham, a Seoul bureau chief from Viet­nam News Agency, said they were im­pressed by the per­for­mances on the train and en­joyed trav­el­ling en masse with other ASEAN peo­ple.

Delux Leang, a jour­nal­ist from Cam­bo­dia’s Th­mey Th­mey News, said he liked learn­ing about the prin­ci­ples of the New South­ern Pol­icy.

“I need to learn much more, yet I be­lieve it is a good ini­tia­tive,” he said. “It makes me re­al­ize how se­ri­ous Korea is about ASEAN ties. This is go­ing to help me have a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing when I write about Korea.”

As part of cross-bor­der rec­on­cil­ia­tory ef­forts, South Korea has been keen to in­vite North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to the Novem­ber sum­mit.

At a press con­fer­ence in Bu­san, Mayor Oh Keo-don vowed to make last-minute ef­forts to have Kim at the meet­ing.

Join­ing Oh at the con­fer­ence were South Korean Am­bas­sador to ASEAN Lim Sung-nam, ASEAN-Korea Cen­tre Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Lee and Myan­mar Am­bas­sador to South Korea Thant Sin.

Am­bas­sador Lim said it is “not ap­pro­pri­ate” to rule out the pos­si­bil­ity that the North Korean leader could visit Bu­san next month.

In Fe­bru­ary, Oh pro­posed Pres­i­dent Moon to dis­cuss at the ASEAN-South Korea sum­mit the pos­si­bil­ity of set­ting up a de­vel­op­ment bank ex­clu­sively for North Korea.

Oh ex­plained his idea was to nur­ture Bu­san as an in­ter­na­tional fi­nan­cial cen­ter, point­ing out that the cen­tral govern­ment had se­lected the city to serve such a role in 2009.

Dur­ing the past 30 years, ASEAN has emerged as South Korea’s sec­ond-largest trad­ing bloc af­ter China, the third-largest in­vest­ment des­ti­na­tion af­ter the United States and the Euro­pean Union and the most pop­u­lar tourist des­ti­na­tion.

ASEAN-Korea Cen­tre

ASEAN-Korea Cen­tre Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Lee Hyuk, front row fifth from left, and other dig­ni­taries cross arms to cel­e­brate the ASEAN-Korea Train: Ad­vanc­ing To­gether project at Seoul Sta­tion in cen­tral Seoul, Oct 16.

Korea Times pho­tos by Yi Whan-woo

ASEAN bands and soloists per­form on the train bound for Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province, Oct. 16. From left are Ra­di­ance Duo of the Philip­pines, Lotchana Anoulack and khean player Hongta Keo­manysouk, both from Laos, Jack­son Anak Michael of Malaysia, Nguyen Dong Trieu of Viet­nam and Mar­cus Lee of Sin­ga­pore’s The Apex Project.

Korea Times photo by Yi Whan-woo

A ki­netic art in­stal­la­tion at the Light of ASEAN, One Com­mu­nity and Har­mony ex­hi­bi­tion at Asia Cul­ture Cen­ter in Gwangju, Oct. 17.

Korea Times photo by Yi Whan-woo

Guests en­joy a buf­fet din­ner dur­ing a re­cep­tion at the Asia Cul­ture Cen­ter in Gwangju, Oct. 17.

ASEAN-Korea Cen­tre

Par­tic­i­pants on the ASEAN-Korea Train: Ad­vanc­ing To­gether visit the Bul­guksa Tem­ple in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province, Oct. 16.

ASEAN-Korea Cen­tre

Par­tic­i­pants visit the Sun­cheon Bay Wet­land Re­serve in Sun­cheon, South Je­olla Province, Oct. 17.

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